Classification: English – questionable
Spotted in the wild:
Commentary by Tom Phillips , 2005/03/15 at 2:03 pm
This seems more like a spellcheck-assisted spelling error than a genuine eggcorn to me - I don’t see how “armature” for “amateur” fits into the eggcorny requirement that the substitution make some kind of sense, when the person attempts a little armature etymology to see if they’ve got it right. This is just a malapropism.
Commentary by jaknine , 2005/03/15 at 7:01 pm
I have a personal theory about this one. In several of the examples I’ve seen of it, it appears that the person my be blending the terms “armchair” (def: Remote from active involvement) as in “armchair quarterback”, and “amateur” (def: Not professional; unskillful), and coming up with the middle ground word “armature” (def: A framework serving as a supporting core for clay sculpture).
From the original post regarding eggcorns, Mark Liberman points out why “egg corn” is not a malopropism: “It’s not a malapropism, because “egg corn” and “acorn” are really homonyms (at least in casual pronunciation), while pairs like “allegory” for “alligator,” “oracular” for “vernacular” and “fortuitous” for “fortunate” are merely similar in sound (and may also share some aspects of spelling and morphemic content).” (itre.cis.upenn.edu/%7Emyl…)
“Armature” to me seems to easily sound like “amateur”, especially if said with a ’southern twang’. It appears to meet the generally accepted definition of eggcorn, especially if thought about in the way I stated above (a blend between “armchair” and “amateur”)
Then again I could be wrong, after all I’m just an armature linguist.
Commentary by jaknine , 2005/03/15 at 7:03 pm
… and I’ve of course spelled malapropism incorrectly, noticed right after I hit submit!
Commentary by Tom Phillips , 2005/03/17 at 2:25 am
Well, now, I actually suggested that armchair/amateur could be a potential eggcorn some time ago! (I just couldn’t find definite examples in the wild - they’re too close in meaning to ever be sure.)
That’s an interesting thought, that “armature” could come from a mixture of “amateur” and “armchair” - a blending of two different sides of an eggcorn - I’ll admit, I hadn’t thought of of armature/amateur as being homonyms, because they’re very distinct in my accent…
I still don’t think that, in such a case, “armature” could be considered a true eggcorn, because the word itself lacks any plausible explanation for why someone would say it in place of “amateur” (the “well, these things are shaped sort of like eggs, so that must be why they’re called eggcorns” phase of eggcorn formation). The armchair/amateur —> armature formation is a mispronounciation layered on top of an eggcorn… something we’d need a whole new linguistic neologism to describe…
But, like you, I’m only an armchair armature enthusiast, so I can’t be sure.
Commentary by Ben Zimmer , 2005/03/17 at 8:02 am
I agree that this is most likely a spellcheck artifact (like _prostitute_ for _prosciutto_ or _aquatinted_ for _acquainted_) — MS Word suggests replacing _amature_ with _armature_. Of course, _amature_ treads on eggcorn territory, due to its similarity to _immature_.
Commentary by Chris Waigl , 2005/03/31 at 11:21 pm
I agree with the doubts expressed above and have put this entry in the “questionable” category.
Note: not all non-standard spellings that substitute a different, existing words (or parts thereof) for what the writer aimed at are eggcorns. We would need examples where the sense of “armature” shows through in the passage as it is written. But since “armature” isn’t a word whose meaning and etymology are particularly transparent, I’d suspect a conflation or a spell-checking artifact, too.
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